As a Dietitian I’m commonly asked about what is the best way to exercise? Is running better that walking or pumping weights better than cycling? Is intermittent training better than continual training? Recently there has been a lot written about intermittent high intensity exercise which basically involves going as hard as you can for 2-3 minutes, catching your breath, and then going hard again. Some studies report better fat burning results when exercising this way but for me the jury is still out. Watch this space though.
According to the Australian Government we should be doing 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days per week. This has not changed for some time. The type of exercise is not specified other than it needs to be done at moderate intensity. To me this makes sense as the intensity that you exercise at is far more important than the type of exercise you do.
Exercise that’s enjoyable AND challenging
The advice I give to clients is whatever exercise you decide to do it needs to be both enjoyable and challenging. In other words if like riding, do it at a pace that you feel you are pushing yourself. Make sure you raise a sweet. The same applies to walking. Leisurely strolls may be enjoyable but you will get far greater benefit from walking at a brisk pace that gets the heart racing a little. Choose a route that includes a hill or two. The key when exercising is to take yourself a little outside of your comfort zone, and it this way your aerobic fitness will improve and you will have far more success burning unwanted fat.
When we think of exercise we usually think of “planned exercise” which is fairly self-explanatory. In reality this makes up only a fraction of energy burned throughout a whole day. Just as important as planned exercise is “incidental exercise”. This refers to any activity that you do without really thinking about it ie. Walking up a flight of stairs, mowing the lawns, doing the grocery shopping. Due to modern technology and ease of transport this type of exercise that has dramatically reduced, and is one of the reasons for our growing waistlines. The good news is no matter what level of fitness you have or what type of job you do, everyone has the capacity to increase their incidental exercise. If you work behind a desk all day this may mean parking further away from the office, walking up the flight of stairs rather than taking the lift or going for a brisk walk at lunch time. All of this adds up.
A good target for incidental exercise is 10,000 steps per day. Many people don’t reach this goal. I recommend getting a pedometer or a funky new wristband like Fit Bit or Jawbone and tracking your steps on a daily basis. It is a great way to increase motivation as well and you might be surprised with all the opportunities there are during your day to be a little more active.
When it comes to exercise choose something that you enjoy doing and perform this at an intensity outside of your comfort zone. Combine this with more incidental exercise to significantly increase your fitness and your daily energy expenditure.